Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practise every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:17-24)
A former District Superintendent of mine used to say something many of you have already heard someone else say, "You are the only Bible some people will ever read." And as much as I like that statement, in Ephesians Paul seems to be saying to us, "You are the only Christ some people will ever see."
In 4:20, Paul states, "That is not the way you learned Christ." I find Paul's expression intriguing. He does not say that is how you learned about Christ, but that is not how you learned Christ. Charles Talbert writes,
The ancient auditors would not have heard it as strange. In their milieu the ideal ruler (here, the Christ/Messiah) was understood as a "living law." It was regarded as better to learn a right way of living from observing the ruler's lifestyle than from the laws he has promulgated.... The Gentile lifestyle is at odds with the Christ paradigm, the walk that Jesus embodies.*
Life by example is the most compelling witness of a faithful way of life. We can talk all we want about what is good and right and true, but only in embodying our words, will our preaching be effective. Jesus embodied his words in his way of life. When he charged his disciples to be servants of one another, he served them. When he insisted that they take up their crosses, he carried his own. When Jesus sent the disciples out to proclaim the coming of the kingdom, he went proclaiming the same. The point is that the followers of Jesus are to "incarnate" Jesus in their lives. If they do not, then no one will listen to our words... nor should they.
It has been said that many persons outside of the Christian faith like Jesus but not the church. I say that those outside the faith cannot know who Jesus truly is unless his followers embody Christ in their lives.
And if we as Jesus' disciples have not learned Christ, we cannot expect anyone to follow the Jesus they cannot see in us.
*Charles Talbert, Ephesians and Colossians. Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), p. 123.
It's true that people need to see Jesus in us, but it will never be an absolute, because we are a sinful people. We fail. And if people look at the totality of our lives, they see imperfection, which Jesus has no part of. But I understand what you are saying and in general agree with you.
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